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Michelle Turnberg, Published January 27 2012

Turnberg: True rewards far greater than money

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Golden Rule, one might say, is a pretty good way to go through life. And though I too often fail to measure up to the rule’s lofty standard, I’ve been tested twice over the past few months at the grocery store. I think I passed.

Last May, I was in the checkout line when I stepped on something. It was a wallet. I looked around to see if anyone had just dropped it.

I picked it up and couldn’t believe what was inside. There was cash. Lots of cash. There were also a number of endorsed checks and business credit cards. In total, there was about $20,000 in cash and checks.

The wallet held no driver’s license, but after going through the checks I figured out the likely owner. I decided to not leave it at the store and instead took it upon myself to find the owner.

The contact name turned out to be a business, which was closed for the day, so I had to wait until morning. I called as soon as I could and told the woman who owned the wallet what I had found. When I initially told her my name, she thought it was a joke, and I had to convince her it was real.

She gave me her work address, and I promptly returned the $20,000. She gave me a huge hug, explained that she had had an awful day and didn’t even realize the wallet was missing. She had planned to go to the bank but was burned out and decided to wait until the next day. Seeing the relief in her face made my day and I was glad I had decided to return it myself. She gave me $100 as a reward and thanked me again and again.

Fast-forward to Jan. 25 at the same grocery store. I am returning my cart to the rack in the parking lot and I see a wallet lying in an empty cart. Déjà vu!

This wallet, too, has money, credit cards, gift cards, and many personal items. This time the wallet included a driver’s license so I am able to see where the woman lives. The drive is short, so I decide to take it to the owner immediately.

I ring the doorbell and a woman greets me. I hold up the wallet and the look of relief on her face is priceless. She mentioned that she recognized me in the store but obviously didn’t say anything.

I told her my wallet had recently been stolen, and I understand how horrible that can be, and that I wanted to make sure she got it back. Her little boy repeatedly invited me inside to eat cookies he just helped baked. She thanked me several times.

I cannot express the joy I felt by helping the two women. And it reminded me that there are profound rewards in life far greater than money. It reminded me that life’s golden moments are truly the times we are able to help others.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for SheSays.